Results from a new test being conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) could prompt automakers to modify their cars by making them heavier, more expensive and less fuel efficient.
The new test is meant to provide ratings for partial small overlap head-on collisions where the current test only examines moderate overlap crashes. By the numbers, this means testing will also be done on crashes where only the outer 25 percent of the car makes contact compared to previous tests that measures collisions with 40 percent overlap.
In crashes falling under the IIHS’ new scrutiny, the wheel absorbs most of the impact and is pushed into the car’s foot well, often with serious consequences to the occupants. In fact, small overlap crashes account for 25 percent of the 10,000 fatal front-end crashes annually.
At least for the time being, implementing changes that would improve a car’s performance in those crashes means bolstering them in front of the wheel, which would add weight and make each car more expensive to produce.
“There’s no free lunch. Yes, it’s going to cost some money to change the vehicles,” IIHS President Adrian Lund told Automotive News. “Probably, in the early designs, it may add some additional weight to vehicles as well. We suspect that, over time, automakers will be designing from scratch to do well in this and then they will be more efficient about how they build it.”
Expectations are one thing, but the fact is that automakers aren’t legally required to do anything because IIHS ratings aren’t legally enforced. The same isn’t true of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is backed by legal requirements for manufacturer compliance.
Companies like Honda are already concerned that the changes necessary to improve scores on the IIHS tests would degrade handling, ride quality and fuel efficiency. Even still, Honda says it plans to add structural enhancements to its vehicles as early as this year.
[Source: Automotive News]